INDONESIA

Jakarta, city of contrasts

By on 3rd April 2016

I can see Adam at the back portion of the bus, his head is bopping away above all the other men’s heads that surround him. He is holding unto the railing, looking out the window, out into the city. Every now and then he is looking over to me, trying to find my gaze, making sure I am still on the bus. I’m sitting right at the front with the other female passengers. We are in Jakarta – the capital of Indonesia. Major culture shock.

Perhaps for the first time on our travels we failed to do our usual research. Perhaps we had become a bit complacent, having been on the road for three months, perhaps we have seen so much, experienced South East Asia in a way that allowed us to feel that it is OK to be unprepared when visiting a new place – after all, everywhere we had visited so far had been easy, fun and Ā self-explanatory.

Not Jakarta.

The capital city of Indonesia, a sprawling metropolis of 10 million residents is by far the biggest place we are visiting in Asia. And at the same time it is by far the least touristy.

We arrived on a cheap flight from Yogyakarta. At Yogya airport for the first time I felt that I had to change my clothing as I felt I was inappropriately dressed. All throughout our travels I always made sure I dressed in culturally and religiously appropriate clothing out of respect for the locals and I just think that is the right thing to do. For the first time, sitting in the terminal at Yogya airport waiting to board our flight, I went into the toilet and changed my shorts for long jeans. I felt uncomfortable even walking to the toilets, with locals fixing their gaze at me. Apart from us there were only a couple of other tourists at the airport. They didn’t seem too bothered, they were dressed in far less clothing than I was, but maybe they just aren’t that sensitive to prying eyes.

This quickly gave me an indication on what to expect in Jakarta. The city was blisteringly hot and humid, but I always made sure I covered my shoulders and legs at all times. This is a Muslim country, which is easy to forget when frolicking around on the Hindu island of Bali, packed with tourists in their bikinis most of the time. Even though Jakarta is religiously diverse, 85% of the population are Muslim. The only place where we saw tourists were in the shopping centre near our B&B and in here it seemed tourist felt they could wear very little, but as soon as we left the shopping centre complex we hardly saw any tourist and definitely no uncovered body-parts.

Wherever we go we try to explore the place by using local public transportation. Figuring out the transport system is definitely a fun part for me – it’s like cracking the local code, it takes a lot of forehead wrinkling, but then in a light-bulb moment suddenly all becomes clear. That’s not what happened in Jakarta. Although perhaps had we stayed a bit longer we would have become much better versed in the transport system. But while we were here, we just couldn’t crack it. The first time we were waiting for the local bus, we committed – what I perceived to be – a major mishap. When waiting for the bus here people queue up at little walkways elevated from the ground high enough for each to lead exactly to the bus doors. Quite innovative actually. However what we failed to notice – and to be honest didn’t read about it anywhere in any of our guidebooks or online travel guides or forums – is that men and women were queuing up at separate doors. Women at the front two queues, men at the back two queues. Adam and I both queued at the front. We both got on the bus at the same door and then stood together at the front, trying to work out our route together, to make sure where we needed to get off the bus. Each bus has a conductor on board. Sure enough the conductor tapped Adam gently on the shoulder and instructed him to move to the back of the bus. We didn’t really understand at first why, until kind local ladies explained. They actually tried to reason with the conductor, trying to convince her it was OK, and that they didn’t mind sharing their bus space with a tourist man. But Adam graciously moved to the back anyway. From then on we just had to communicate over the crowd to make sure neither of us missed our stop! šŸ™‚

So what did we get up to in Jakarta, while we were there for 4 days? To be honest – not that much. We found the city to be a bit underwhelming. There wasn’t enough things to do for tourists and the fact that wherever we went we almost became the tourist attraction ourselves didn’t really help us relax while exploring the city. Because there are so few tourists here, wherever we went locals were sniggering behind our back, following us, constantly asking to take photos of us. It wasn’t a problem at all, and we found it sweet, but it does make it a bit difficult to move around and just explore a place in peace. Is that perhaps why so many tourists just stuck to shopping malls and leisure complexes rather then venturing out in the real city?

Regardless, we tried to see as much as possible – even though our tourguide, Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring doesn’t really have any solid offerings on what are the most worthy attractions to visit and see in the city. Here are a few pics and captions to give you some ideas of our time here:

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts
Travelling in a local tuk-tuk – some of the traffic in Jakarta is just ridiculous, travelling by one of these definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. They are small enough to pop in an out and between cars, but because they are open you end up engulfed in exhaust fumes.

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts
On our way to the Freedom Monument. It took us over an hour to queue and get to the top as there is only one lift takes people up and down it at 8-10 people at a time. The views are well wort it though and there is an interesting exhibition at the base of the monument about Indonesia’s history and the country’s fight for independence through the centuries.

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts
Views from the top of the Freedom Monument over the city were beautiful

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts
Some schoolchildren on a day-trip at the top of the Freedom Monument. They really wanted to have pics with us šŸ™‚

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts
At the National Museum of Indonesia. This is a really great museum and well worth visiting. We sent a few hours here just wondering around the halls and exhibitions. My favourites were the ethnography section and the exhibition about the different architectural styles of Indonesia. They had beautifully built small models of different house styles across the 17000 islands that make up the Indonesia – it is such a diverse country!! Also, try the red velvet cake in the museum cafe) – we had two slices it was that good!!! šŸ™‚

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts
We had a nice coffee and some finger-food at Cafe Batavia. Only finger-food, because it’s quite a pricey restaurant. It’s got absolutely fabulous interiors though and some nice views overlooking the main square.

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

 

And what did I love about Jakarta? I absolutely adored the couple we were staying with in their B&B. They were such gracious hosts, even though perhaps we weren’t the best guests at this point – we were just tired a lot of the time while we were staying here and also spent a lot of time trying to sort out our onward travel from here, so we spent much of our time with heads in phones and guidebooks, buying flights, booking accommodation, adding up finances, working out dates… We had a lot of decisions to make while we were here. What I loved most about B&B Tomang was the breakfast we received every morning. I swear the lady of the house must have been a chef before as every morning we couldn’t believe the spread that was waiting for us on the table in the dining room, it was so lovingly prepared and so different every day, real Indonesian food, really awesome!! If you’re ever in Jakarta on a budget, stay here!!

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

Jakarta, city of contrasts

 

 

Something else I really loved about JakartaĀ was how helpful and kind locals were here. For example when they kindly reassured us on the bus that Adam’s presence at the front was not offendingĀ the travelling ladies. We also got completely lost on our way back from the Kota area toward the Freedom Monument – we got on the wrong bus line and didn’t realise until we had already travelled 40 minutes in the wrong direction. Because we were sitting in different parts of the bus it took us a bit longer to realise, but then I suddenly started to get agitated and I think the two ladies sitting opposite me noticed my body language and my worried looks over to Adam. Even though they did not speak English, somehow they managed to decipher from me where we needed to be and showed me how to get there on the bus map. Not only that, but then they got off with us at the next bus stop and walked us around to the correct stop. They then told the men waiting for the bus at Adam’s door where we were going and for the rest of the trip on the now correct bus the men kept passing the message to new passengers to make sure we got off at the right stop! Even though they did not speak English, the changing passengers passed our stop name around and when it was time for us to leave the bus they tapped Adam on the shoulder and signalled to him that we needed to go. Amazing.

Or when we were trying to cross an incredibly busy street in Kota and the road-workers noticed our predicament, one of them casually walked out into middle of the busy street, held up one arm to stop the traffic, like a trusted lollipop lady, and waved to us to cross. We couldn’t thank him enough.

We did spend quite a lot of time in the mall, because it was so close to our accommodation and its air-conditioned halls were an easy escape from the sweltering heat outside. It also had a good selection of cafes and restaurants and also some nice shops where I could add a few basic pieces of clothing to my travel wardrobe collection, which let’s face it by now I had really become tired of.

As we got to Jakarta, we were coming to the last week of our Indonesian visa. We figured that after staying here for 2-3 days we wouldĀ still have enough time to hop over to Sumatra and then head back to Thailand. We had to stretch out right until the end of our visa, because these days you can only get a 30 day single entry tourist visa to Thailand and that would have taken us to the date of our return flight to the UK. So we calculated it all out you see… šŸ˜‰

Of course once we got to Jakarta and actually set down to work out a plan of action for the coming days we quickly realized that we didn’t have enough time OR money to make it to Sumatra, especially as we would have to come all the way back to Jakarta before flying to Thailand. So we decided to not visit Sumatra and to stay put in Jakarta until the last day of our visa. But because, honestly, we didn’t find Jakarta that exciting, and it was way too hot and intense for us, we decided to leave Indonesia a few days before our visa expired and have an extra stop which we had never even planned for.

Stay tuned for my next blog post to find out where that was. I’ll tell you one thing – unexpectedly, it was one of my favourite stops on our whole journey! šŸ™‚

Until then,

Andrea x

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INDONESIA

Visiting Prambanan Park

By on 1st April 2016

Yogyakarta tourist offices organise whole day trips both to Borobudur, which is the largest Buddhist Temple in the world and to Prambanan Park, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. However it is also possible to visit both temple complexes on the same day. This is especially possible if you have your own transportation, but tour operators also cater for those who wish to see both sites in one day.

This is what we opted for. We travelled to Borobudur in the early morning hours, spent around 2 hours there in total and then got back in our minibus and travelled towards Prambanan.

Here is a map to demonstrate where these temples are in relation to Yogyakarta:

 

Visiting Prambanan Park
map sourced from http://www.besttravelpictures.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Borobudur-Maps.jpg

 

 

As you can see the two temples are in opposite directions from Yogyakarta. So once we finished visiting Borobudur the minibus then started travelling towards the centre of Yogyakarta. It takes about an hour when there is no traffic, but with the mid-morning traffic it took about two hours to get from Borobudur across to Prambanan and then about another 20 minutes to Prambanan. The worst thing as that there was no air-con on the bus, it was really cramped on board and there were no curtains on the windows. The bus was like a tin can soaking up the sweltering heat and no-one had any water with them!! It was hellish.

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

 

The first thing everyone did when we finally stopped at the car park of Prambanan Park was to seek out the one and only facility where we could get some water: a vending machine by the ticket office.

Prambanan was a nice surprise to us. With the emphasis is usually on Borobudur, visitors may give this temple a miss, however I think it is definitely worth the visit. It very much reminded me of the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, but it was a lovely manageable site. Dozens of temple spires broke up the brilliant blue of the sky, tourist were everywhere, but mainly actual tourists, not locals, which gave us a bit of a breather from the past few days whereby we ourselves have become tourist attractions (more on that in the next post).

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

 

We walked around and explored the sites, up and down steep steps, in and out of shrines and covices, got to talking to another visiting couple, which was very nice. We visited a couple of the museums nearby and then had a bit of lunch in the nearest restaurant before heading back to our minibus and then to Yogyakarta.

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

Visiting Prambanan Park

 

All in all it was a long day what with visiting two of the most important religious sites in the whole of Indonesia in one super hot day, but it had to be done. It was well worth making to journey to Yogyakarta for this – I could highly recommend it. If you are in the area you can also hike up the nearby Mount Merapi –Ā the most active volcano in Indonesia. You can actually see the volcano from Prambanan. I think all three – Borobudur, Prambanan and Merapi – could be done in one day if you are super organised and maybe if you hire a driver and car.

Next stop on our itinerary is Jakarta, until then,

Andrea x

 

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FEATURED | INDONESIA

Borobudur – the world’s largest Buddhist temple

By on 23rd March 2016

The day afterĀ discovering Yogyakarta townĀ we were signed up for an organised tour of the temple of Borobudur – the whole reason we were here in Yogyakarta. I read a lot about this place, the Rough Guide to South-East Asia on a budget listed it as one of the top things to see and do in the whole of South-East Asia, so there was no way we were going to miss it.

The day started super-early; we were getting picked up from our B&B at 5am. Most tour opearators also offer organised trips to the temples at sunrise, which means you would have to be in the temple by about 6am. That would have meant a 2 am start for us. We didn’t go for this option, instead we opted forĀ being at the temple between 7 and 8 am. However if you don’t mind early starts I would definitely recommend going on the earlier tour to catch the sunrise. We caught some of the early morning mist lifting, but I can see what we may have missed in those first two hours of sunlight.

Our minibus picked us up on time and then proceeded to collect 6 more passengers from town. The journey time to the temple in total was about 2 hoursĀ including collecting everyone and driving out of town for about an hour and 15 minutes.

When we got to the temple we all walked up to the ticket office where there was already a queue forming mostly of local children on school-trips. Everyone was handed a blue sarong to wear, even those who were wearing long trousers (like I was, I came prepared, but still had to wear the sarong. I didn’t mind, it was a cute sarong, but Adam also had to wear it. He wasn’t amused at first, but got used to it :-))

The temple of Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, an important UNESCO World Heritage site, a jewel in Java’s and indeed in Indonesia’s crown. The temple was built in the 9th century and has been standing for 1200 years. The whole temple is built in the shape of a stupa. It has three levels and at the top level there is a main stupa surrounded by 72 smaller stupas, each hiding a Buddha.

It truly is a beautiful place; surrounded by volcanoes and limestone cliffs, a place where a man-made structure and the beauty of nature forms a perfect whole.

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

 

Borobudur

 

As we were walking around the site more and more visitors kept arriving and making their way up the steep steps towards the top tier of the temple. By the time we got up there there were tourists and local school children everywhere. The children were very sweet, they kept talking to us and smiling at us shyly, we even caught a few trying to take stealth photographs of us. One group of children aged between 12 and 16 started talking to us and asking us questions about where we were from and if we were enjoying the temple. We found out that they were actually undertaking their English language exam at that exact moment; their teacher was sanding behind them watching them intently. Part of their examination was that they had to speak in English in real life situation. Their English was great and they were very sweet, kept walking around with us and taking their tun to ask us questions. We also asked them about their school, their lessons, etc to make sure they also got to talk. Nut in the end we had to make our apologies and leave them as we had to start climbing down and get back to our minibus, where we were meeting the rest of our group.

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

Borobudur

 

 

 

Borobudur

 

 

I decided to dedicate the second part of the trip to the Prambanan Park a separate blog post, just because I think Borobudur deserves its own space šŸ™‚

Until then,

Andrea x

 

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INDONESIA

Off the well-trodden track in Yogyakarta

By on 27th December 2015
Yogyakarta

Our beautiful week in Gili Trawangan had quickly come to an end. We were so sad to leave this paradise, but after 6 days of just chilling out, soaking up the sun, watching beautiful sunsets and just generally living island life we had to pack up and move on. We booked our return journey to Bali on one of the Samayan fast boats and off we went.
The journey back to Bali was slightly more comfortable. As soon as we arrived in Padanag Bai we were led to a minibus with 6 other travellers all heading to the airport in Denpasar. It took about an hour and a half to get there and then we just had to wait for our flight from Bali to Yogyakarta.

We decided to move unto Java, which is theĀ biggest out of the 14000 islands in the Indonesian Archipelago,Ā and we had Yogyakarta and Jakarta on our itinerary before leaving Indonesia. There is so much to Indonesia, it is a wonderfully diverse country, but we were getting a bit strapped for cash and so had to miss out on a trip to Flores and the Komodo islands. We were also thinking whether to visit Borneo and Sumatra, but on this trip we just couldn’t make the timescale and our budget work. Indonesia is a huge country with thousands of island and even though there are islands that are more geared towards visitors than others it still takes an awful lot of organisation to make sure you see everything in the 1 month your visa allows you to spend in the country. Indonesia is definitely a country to re-visit for me. I desperately want to go to Flores (as well as re-visit Bali and the Gilis of course…!)

In the meantime it made sense for us to slowly start moving up in the general direction of Thailand since that was going to be our final destination on our trip. So we flew to Yogyakarta which is locatedĀ right in the middle ofĀ Java.

Yogyakarta isn’t exactly a tourism hotspot. You would be forgiven for wondering why exactly we headed there. Well, the simplest answer if I want to be perfectly honest is that the guidebook we had with us (Rough Guides to South-East Asia on a Budget) listed it as one of the unmissable places in the whole of Indonesia due to its amazing Buddhist temple complex, Borobudur. I saw a photograph of Borobudur and I was mesmerized by it, so I was really looking forward to visiting there. It was also nice to be going against the tourist crowds – with Bali and the Gilis being so touristy it felt nice to be back in true backpacker-mode and seeking out places that weren’t necessarily on the usual travellerĀ route. I’m sure plenty of tourists do visit Yogyakarta (also known as Jogja by locals), but when we were there we only saw a handful of backpackers,Ā if that…

We booked our accommodation just outside the centre of Yogyakarta, which afforded us our cheapest accommodation on this trip so far: Ā£10 per night for the two of us in a private room with bathroom and a balcony overlooking a lush jungle terrace. Ok I make it sound nicer than it actually was, but we had quite a nice time there. We had breakfast on the terrace every morning where we were serenaded by a local guy playing local music and singing along beautifully. There were also many many birds in ornate birdcages accompanying him with their birdsongs (which was lovely, except it made Adam a bit uncomfortable seeing those beautiful birds all locked up).

We walked into Yogyakarta centre on our first day with two objectives: to have a wonder around the city and to book our trip to Borobodour.

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

 

First we headed towards the Kraton, which is the political and cultural centre of the city. It is also called the Sultan’s Palace and it is effectively a walled city within the city with its own shops, mosques, schools and art centres.

Now you would think having been on the road for almost three months in South-East Asia we would have learnt a trick or two about scamsters. Well let me tell you – our naivety and trusting nature is unwavering. We already fell for a practiced speech of a less-than honest fraudster in BangkokĀ and instead of learning from our mistakes we fell for it again in Yogya!! The difference was that we didn’t even realize what was happening after way after it had happened.

Basically we never made it to the Kraton. On the way there we got approached by a young man, who was perfectly pleasant and he seemed like heĀ genuinely just wanted to help. However when he told us the Palace was shut and he asked us if we had a map, he’ll show us where to go instead, I have to say I got really suspicious and did not want to give him our map. However Adam did not suspect a thing; as if he had total amnesia about our Bangkok adventure and he happily obliged, handed over our map and chatted away with this guy. I kind of felt a bit cynical and told myself to stop being silly and to be more open and nice to kind locals…

He tried to persuadeĀ us to go to a local art-centre instead where local artĀ students exhibit their beautiful and unique Indonesian batik art. And because it’s just students we don’t have to buy anything, we can just just look, he reassured us.

This guy’s scheme was way more sophisticated than the Bangkok guy’s was – he could tell I had my suspicions. When we said our goodbyes Adam and I quickly started walking in the opposite direction to the oneĀ he suggested. 5 minutes later we were approached by another guy, a very jolly looking fella, whoĀ started talking to us as we were walking along. Just normal chit-chat, where are you from, where are you going, etc. He then told us he is going to the hospital and he will take us to this batik shop as it is on his way. I immediately knew what was up, but Adam just kept chit-chatting, he was so nice, not suspecting a thing, just thinking what a lovely man this was. He was lovely, no question about that, but somehow, even though we tried not to, we still ended up at the batik house. He walked us all the way to the front door. Conveniently,Ā it was right on his way to the hospital!! Hmmmm….

We went in the shop, and I have to admit it was really nice in there. The art was stunning and we had a little look into how it was all made. In the end we loved the displayed batik pieces it so much that Adam decided to buy me a couple of them for my birthday šŸ™‚ And because they are basically textile we could easily wrap them up and carry them with us in our backpacks and not only that but we will actually have something to put on our walls once we get home!! šŸ™‚

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

Adam did not suspect anything until a bit later I just kind of muttered to him that ‘you do realize we just got scammed again’. He didn’t want to believe me, but when it finally dropped he was gobsmacked! Oh dear, we really are so naive and easily-led.

So the moral of the story, children, is this: don’t fall for this if you’re in Yogyakarta or indeed if you are in Bangkok. Learn from our mistakes! šŸ˜€

After our detour to the batik shop we headed to the Khao San road of Yogya,Ā Jalan Sosrowijayan. I did mention already that this city is a bit less known for travellers, didn’t I? Anyway the street was almost deserted. Still, we had some nice lunch and drinks on a terrace above the street, had some of the traditional local Nasi.

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

 

We then went to one of the tourist office guys and signed up for our trip to Boroboudur next day. This is after all why we were here,Ā Indonesia’s most important cultural sites, 4am start, bring it on!

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

 

Yogyakarta

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INDONESIA

10 cool things to know about Gili Trawangan

By on
Gili Trawangan

In my last blog post I talked about how we got from the heart of Bali, Ubud to the Gili Islands. I hope you enjoyed the photographs I shared of Gili T (as it is affectionately known). Those are some of my favourite photographs of our whole time away in Asia. I just look at them and feel happy. I look forward to sharing more Gili Trawangan photos in this post. But first things first: I have to tell you a little bit about this amazing island.

 

10 cool things to know about Gili Trawangan

  1. location

The three Gili Islands are located between the island of Bali and Lombok. They are about an hour and a half fast-boat ride from Bali and a ten minute fast-boat ride from Lombok. They are actually just off the coast of Lombok. Most travellers make the journey to The Gilis from Bali. However as Lombok is now getting more and more popular as a tourist destination, you can also just spend your holiday in Lombok and go to the Gilis for a day trip. You can of course fly into Bali. The international airport in Denpasar is only about an hour and a half away from Pedang Bai, where you can catch your fast-boat to the Gilis. However Lombok also has its own international airport and you can catch a 3 hour flight here from Singapore. You can then get an airport transfer to Bangsal, the departure point for boats towards The Gili Islands.

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

 

2. horse carts

Once you arrive on Gili Trawangan you will immediately notice that there are no scooters here. There are no motorised vehicles of any sort in fact as they are not allowed. Instead, the main modes of transportation here are cycling, walking or taking a ride on a Cidomo. A cidomo is a horse-drawn cart, which the locals use for transporting everything from building materials, to shop supplies as well as passengers and their luggage. Adam and I loved the idea that the locals were trying to preserve the authenticity of the island by not allowing any motorised vehicles. I hope this will stay like this for a long time. On the other hand, the cidomos can be a bit controversial. Some people might not like the way the horses might be treated. We took a ride a couple of times on a cidomo, and one of the guys was certainly a bit heavy handed with the whip. However the island is small, you can get anywhere on foot.

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

 

3. supplies and water

Every morning boats upon boats arrive on the shores of Gili Trawangan and bring in new supplies, food, drinks, ingredients, materials and so on. It’s fascinating watching the locals work together on the shore to get everything off the boats and distributed as quickly as possible.

Interestingly the Gilis also don’t have their own fresh water supply and water is also transported here from Lombok.Ā On Gili Trawangan desalinated water is now available, but many accommodations still only have salt water showers. You should not drink tap-water, but bottled water is available everywhere as it shipped in from Lombok every day. As an alternative you can also drink coconut water, which is the most refreshing drink ever! I loved it! I drank it at every possibility I had. A whole coconut cost about a Ā£1. Bargain, if you think how much you pay for a teeny-tiny carton of coconut water in the UK!

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

 

4. religion

When you first arrive from Bali you might notice that the Gilis are no longer Hindu. In fact Bali is the only Hindu island in the whole of Indonesia. The Gilis are home to the Sasak people who are predominantly Muslim.Ā All three of the Gilis have a mosque and the call to prayer can be heard on the islands 5 times a day, the first one at around 5 am.

 

5. diving and snorkelling

Earlier in our travels we spent a couple of weeks on the Thai island of Koh Tao, which is undoubtedly the scuba divers’ number 1 paradise destination. Adam did research other Asian scuba diving sites and Bali kept coming up. Now what we also discovered is that the Gilis have amazing diving sites! So much so that I believe the first tourists who discovered the islands’ potential were travelers looking for diving opportunities. Now Gili Trawangan beachfront is lined with scuba diving schools so you can take your pick who you want to learn with! But if you don’t feel like scuba diving, you mustn’t miss snorkeling! There are plenty of opportunities to go out as part of a small group on one of the snorkeling boats circling all three islands. Even if you don’t feel like going with a group, you can grab and rent snorkeling equipment on every corner. This is what we did and we only had to swim about 20 meters off-shore to come across a stunning giant turtle! We came about as close to it as possible without touching it (try not to touch the wildlife underwater while diving or snorkeling).

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

 

6. nightlife

Gili Trawangan is not exactly the sleepy paradise island that you may think it is. Out of the three Gilis, Trawangan has definitely grown into the party destination. The East side of the island is lined with restaurants, bars and pubs and walking along this stretch after sunset means that you will inevitably end up in one of these establishments for a drink and dance. You should definitely start your evening in the night market – this is where most people on a budget come for dinner. It’s basically rows upon rows of street-food carts with the most amazing dishes at a fraction of the price of a restaurant meal. There are party boats 3-4 times a week as well if that’s what takes your fancy, I’ll be honest we didn’t really go for that. We went toĀ a full-moon party while we were on Gili-T, but it was sooooo windy by the sea that night that we left before the crowd really got going. We’re a bit old now, so we don’t hang around if we don’t love something šŸ™‚ The music was good though, so maybe next time we’re there. There is of course an Irish bar here, like in most places in the world and that seemed to be the most happening place while we were on Gili T.

 

7. sunsets

I have to say I love a good sunset-watching. And I honestly do think that the sunsets we saw on Gili Trawangan are amongst the best ones we have ever seen. There is a bar on the Western side of the island, the Paradise Sunset Bar that is THE place to be for a bit of sunset watching with cocktail in your hand, reclining on a giant bean-bag on the beach, with quiet chill-out music in the background. You can’t beat it.

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Another popular spot for watching the susnset is on the top of Sunset Hill, which is a 100 metre high lookout point on top of the island. It takes about 15 minutes to walk up there from the village. You can usually find another group of people sitting in the grass with a bottle of beer for the exact same purpose. Just make sure you have a torch with you – once the sun dips below the horizon it gets dark really quickly and you still need to quickly find your way back down.

 

Gili Trawangan

 

 

Gili Trawangan

 

 

8. policeĀ 

There are no police on Gili Trawangan. The island is run by the village head. He gets to make the final decision on most matters, for example he banned gambling, pool tables and even dogs!!! Yes, you heard it right – dogs are not allowed on Gili Trawangan, there’s not one of them on the island. Although there are no police, the island still feels very safe.

 

9. cats of Gili T

As I have already mentioned there are no dogs on Gili Trawangan! They are banned the poor things. I guess it’s because the main mode of transportation is by horse cart and dogs do like to chase and bark at horses! They also like to jump up and down guests and poop in the sea… So as lovely as dogs are they are not allowed on the Gilis. Which however means that the cat population on Gili T is thriving!! I love cats so I was more than happy to share my spot with a lazy snoozing cat, wherever we went. šŸ™‚

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

 

10. yoga

Aahh I was so happy finally, for the first time in our travels I got to do some yoga! I’m glad I found a really cool yoga studio on Gili Trawangan. It wasn’t one on the beachfront, which I’m sure is pretty popular. The one I went to is owned by an American girl who married a local guy and together they built their dream home right in the middle of Gili T with a beautiful yoga studio in tow. When I went she was still very much in the early days of her business, but I really hope that as the island becomes busier and infrastructure more developed, her studio will be discovered and she will get lots of business, because by far she was the best yoga teacher I have ever practiced with! If you’re on Gili T, check out this yoga centre:Ā Soraya Yoga

 

Gili Trawangan

 

Gili Trawangan

 

So there we are, hope you like my little list of cool things to know about Gili Trawangan. This island is definitely one that I would love to vis

it again in my life. If you are ever in Bali, you really must as it is so easy to get to, you cannot miss it!

 

 

 

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INDONESIA

Getting to the Gili Islands

By on 1st December 2015

I challenge you to find something more intriguing on Earth than this – the largest of those 3 tiny islands measures only 6 square kilometres. When I first heard about this place we were already in Indonesia. These are the Gili Islands, the hidden gems of South-East Asia. They are not quite on the radar of holidaymakers, but they are becoming more and more popular with travellers. Make no mistake, they will not stay hidden for very long (judging by the number of developments going on and their close proximity to Bali, I wouldn’t be surprised if they soon became the next big dream destination).

gili-trawangan
image from: http://www.visiongilitrawangan.com/

 

 

Getting to the Gili Islands – from Ubud to Pedang Bai

It is super easy to arrange your onward travel from the spiritual and cultural centre of Bali that is UbudĀ towards the Gili Islands. There are numerous travel agencies along the main roads in Ubud town and your accommodation is most likely to also sell trips and tickets. You can buy early morning coach / minibus tickets to Padang BaiĀ and the coach arrives there in time for the scheduled boat departures towards the Gili Islands. You can buy combined bus and boat tickets, but we decided to buy only the coach tickets as we wanted to spend a day in Padang Bai. Once you’re in Padang BaiĀ you can then research the different boat companies and their prices and packages. Here is a useful website that we used when looking up the options:

http://www.gili-paradise.com/fast-boats/

We got the 11am minibusĀ from Ubud to Padang Bai. The journey took about an hour and a half and it was a great way to see some more of the beautiful Bali countryside. When we got to Pedang Bai most people went straight to the marina, but since we decided to spend a night here we headed to our accommodation. In the afternoon we had a nice walk around town, ate some Nasi Goreng and drank some Balinese coffee in a local restaurant and then walked around to find our boat tickets for the following day’s trip to the Gilis.

There are several companies in town, most have a ticket booth or office along the main drag by the sea. We found a good deal through our hotel. They were selling tickets on behalf of Semaya One company whose tickets usually cost 1.2 million rupiahs (Ā£58) per return ticket. we got these through our hotel for 950000 each (Ā£45), which we thought was a bargain!! These were open ended tickets and included our transfer to the airport once we were coming back from the Gilis. This was a pretty good deal we thought for a fast boat. You could find tickets for 2 million rupiahs, so we were happy to have found a bargain. I was a bit worried that the boat might not be up to scratch, but it was OK.

There is an option that is much cheaper though – getting the public ferry that departs from Padang Bai every hour, but the journey takes about 5 hours. The ferry tickets only cost 40000 rupiahs per person each way (Ā£2 !!!!), which is a massive saving of almost all of the cost of the fast boat ticket šŸ˜€ However do not underestimate how hot it gets on the boat. We were sweltering in the fast boat out on the open sea, with not a cloud in the sky, temperatures hitting mid-thirties… I don’t know how we would have coped with that heat for 5 hours…

Padang Bai itself is a small town and most people ususally just pass through on their way to the Gili Islands. However actually there are many diving schools here and we did see loads of scuba divers, so it looks to be a popular place to learn to dive. As well as the main marina area the town has two small beaches: the Blue Lagoon Beach and the Bias Tugal Beach. If you are stopping over here like we did, I recommend you definitely visit one of these beaches as the main marina area is not very nice, there’s way too much rubbish there for my liking. But the other two beaches are nice.Ā Of course they are nothing to rave about compared to the Gilis, which is probably why Padang Bai is just a stopover, or a won’t-even-stop-over-just-get-straight-on-the-boat sorta town.

Here are some photos of Pedang Bai:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to the Gili Islands – from Pedang Bai to Gili Trawangan

The boat-trip was hot, and crowded and a bit disorganized to be honest.Ā But it was fine, the main thing was that we got there! The boat first stopped at Lombok, then Gili Air, Gili Meno and finally Gili Trawangan, which is where we got off. This is where the adventure started! On Gili Trawangan (and I suspect on all three Gili Islands) there isn’t really a marina as such. The boats cannot come all the way to the shore or anchor by a pier. They come as close to the shore as possible and the rest you have to do yourself!!! We had to jump off the boat with all our bags, straight into the crystal clear sea! It was amazing. Adam was so happy, this is exactly the type of island he thought the Thai island of Koh Tao would still be. The Gilis are still very much undeveloped compared to other islands in the region. Trawangan is the largest, most developed out of the three and even there we had to jump off the boat šŸ™‚ It was fab!

Gili Trawangan is only 3km by 2km and most accommodation is on the East side of the island, which is where the boats arrive. So really you will not have to walk that far in each direction to find your room. But bear this in mind: there is no motorized transportation on anywhere in the Gilis! No cars, no motorbikes. Only horse-drawn carriages, which is so cute, and it’s one of the things we loved most about the island, I hope they will never change this. So if you need to go a bit further away from the marinas, or have big bags, you will have to hail a cart. Don’t worry,Ā the cartsĀ are always waiting at the marina for the boats to come in.

The cheaper accommodations are towards the centre of the island, this is where we booked a room and so we started walking. Our lodge was 1 km inland, so it took us about 10 minutes to walkĀ there. We had an amazing, air-conditioned big room with a terrace overlooking a lovely garden for about Ā£25 a night. The Gilis are more expensive to stay on than a lot of other places in Indonesia, but it is still do-able on a budget. It just meant we weren’t by the sea. But when the island is so small, it doesn’t really matter. I think one thing that is definitely an advantage of staying in a resort by the sea is that the hotels have their own strip of beach and almost the whole length of the the East side of Gili Trawangan is basically taken up by restaurants, bars and hotels.

We originally planned to stay 4 nights on Gili Trawangan, but in the end we stayed for 6, we loved it so much. It is one of those places that I would definitely visit again. Along with Bali. It is so easy to get here from Bali; if you are visiting Bali, you must visit the Gili Islands at least for a weekend. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited in my life. When I think back to our travels, the first place that pops into my mind is the beach on Gili Trawangan. I will never forget the blue water, the white coral beaches and the deep blue sky. Just mesmerizing.

In my next post I will write a bit more about Gili Trawangan and some of the interesting facts about this tropical paradise. Can’t wait to show you more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CAMBODIA

Flight of the Gibbon zipline experience near Siem Reap

By on 7th September 2015

While most people come to Siem Reap specifically to visit the Temples of Angkor, it is worth spending a couple of extra days around the town of Siem Reap as well. We found a couple of really cool activities that we can recommend you to do while in town: ziplining and going to the circus! šŸ™‚ After our day discovering Angkor we signed up for a day of fun at the ‘Flight of the Gibbon‘ zipline experience. The Flight of the Gibbon is well known amongst travellers in Asia. The company has a presence in a few popular South East Asian cities. Currently they run ziplining days in Chiang Mai in Thailand, In Bangkok and in Pattaya in Thailand and of course in Seam Reap in Cambodia.

 

The Flight of the Gibbon experience

While in Chiang Mai we were considering doing the Flight of the Gibbon there, however our few days there had already filled up with activities, so we decided there and then that we will sign up for this in Siem Reap. Another reason was of course that the zipline course in Seam Reap is located inside Angkor Park, the same location as the amazing temples in the middle of the jungle! This for us just added to the experience.

When we arrived in Siem Reap we asked our kind hosts to book us a day here and they very kindly did this for us. This is a very popular activity to do in the area, so it’s worth booking ahead online. If you want to do this as a last minute plan, you will have to book on the phone. Of course by now we never quite knew where we will be on which days on our travels, so even though we knew for a long time that we will want to do this we still didn’t book it until the last minute.

The Flight of the Gibbon experience currently costs $109. The day itself actually only costs $89, but because the course is located within Angkor Park, this means that an additional $20 has to be paid for the daily park entry pass. If you bought a 3-day pass or a weekly pass originally and you want to make this a part of your visit to Angkor, then of course you only have to pay $89.

By South East Asian standards and prices, the $109 still seems like a lot of money for a few hours of fun. However when you arrive to the site you immediately understand where the money goes. The Flight of the Gibbon is the Top rated ziplining and canopy experience in South East Asia and they achieved this by having stringent safety standards and an amazing group of guides who take groups around the treetops safely every day. They are also the only company that got the green light for operating within amongst the majestic temples In Angkor Archaeological Park.

Our day started at 8am, when we got a pickup by a shuttle service. In total there was 8 of us in the group, so the shuttle collected everyone from around Siem Reap. Once we were all aboard our driver proceeded to the entrance of the park where we received our new daily park passes. It then took another 20 minutes to get to the site of the zipline course.

We received our safety gear, our harnesses, helmets, were strapped in and we were ready to go. We got our safety talk and signed a form of consentĀ to confirm that we understood the dangers of what we were about to undertake. Our group had 2 young guys as our guides (or ‘Sky Rangers’ as per their official titles), who started off byĀ demonstrating on a low zip near the ground how to fly across, how to land, how to always keep on of the two safety harnesses attached to the cable when moving along and how to never ever touch the cable while flying (!!!) as this can result in the loss of a few fingers :-S

By now I was getting really nervous, so was keen to get going and get the first flight out of the way.

There are in total 10 ziplines and 4 hanging bridges on this course. It takes a total of 3 hours to go around it all. The construction is amazing! There are 21 platforms hugging the gigantic trees, none of which are secured to the trees by bolts, etc. only by tension – just tight wiring! The longest wire is 300 metres long and 60 metres high. While this isn’t the longest by far you can do nowadays, what with mile long wires now in existence, still, the experience of flying amongst the jungle, in one of the most amazing archaeological park in the whole world is hard to beat.

Anyway, I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking šŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

Once we finished the course we were lowered down the treetops on our safety cables. We made our way back from the last platform to the office area by walking through the jungle paths.Our sky rangers stopped our group every now and then to point out certain plants and trees and tell us a little bit about them. They were really excellent guides, their English was fantastic and it was clear they absolutely loved their job!Ā We did also spot some gibbons in the trees, which was an added bonus! šŸ™‚

When we finished with ziplining our group was taken to a lovely restaurant for a spot of lunch where we chatted about our experiences flying above the treetops and got to know each other a bit more. Afterwards all of us were returned to our respective accommodations in Siem Reap.

When signing up for this fun day, you get the following included in your $109:

  • 10 ziplines crossing over the jungle canopy
  • 4 hanging bridges spanning hundreds of metres
  • A 50 metre rappel descent
  • 21 platform stations ā€“ 2 hours on the course
  • Education about wildlife, flowers and fauna along the course
  • Two sky ranger guides for every group of up to 9
  • Detailed safety briefing & personal equipment fitting
  • State of the art safety equipment
  • Cambodian meal with bottled water included
  • R/T shuttle from anywhere in Siem Reap and surrounds
  • A chance to see gibbons into the jungle eco-system
  • Zero-impact Electric shuttle to course once inside the Park

For more information, please visit the Flight of the Gibbon website:Ā https://www.treetopasia.com/cambodia-holiday/angkor

 

Phare, The Cambodian Circus

In the evening we went out for a nice dinner in Siem Reap. There are lots of nice restaurants in town and the Cambodians are beautifully gracious hosts. The food was gorgeous too. We then went to see a circus production called Phare, The Cambodian Circus. If you are in Siem Reap I urge you to go see this group of talented young people, they are fantastic! I had never seen a circus quite like this one. What I loved about this most is how the Cambodian culture was incorporated in an otherwise really modern production. The show included traditional circus elements, but it was mixed with theatre, contemporary dance and gymnastics all framed by a story. The actors spoke in Cambodian, but two big screens hanging from the ceiling showed subtitles in English, French, German and Chinese.

Admirably the circus school has made its mission to ‘provideĀ gainful employment to Cambodian youth from difficult social and economic backgrounds’ and to ‘contribute toĀ the rebirth of Cambodian modern art’.

The show itself was aboutĀ an hour long, andĀ it was one of theĀ most fun thing we saw during our travels in Asia šŸ™‚ The show we saw was called Eclipse (there are 8 different stories played on rotation) and tickets cost $20/person. Find out more about this circus here:Ā http://www.pharecambodiancircus.org/circus/

Apparently the troop will be touring Europe soon, which would be fantastic, I would love to see them again and see them succeed away from home, internationally!

 

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CAMBODIA | FEATURED

The temples of Angkor

By on 25th August 2015

Are you ready for this, it is going to be a long post!!! But it is of an amazing subject and there will also be many many photographs, so hang in there and keep reading! šŸ™‚

A few days ago Lonely Planet revealed its Ultimate Travel List based on the votes of travel professionals. They have also released a new book based on this list, called ‘Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel: Our List of the 500 Best Places on the Planet – Ranked’.Ā I fully intend to get this book, sound great, will be a great addition to my coffee table once we get home.

 

 

Anyway, the reason I mention this is because the number one place on this list (and I understand this was voted number 1 by a landslide) was the Temples of Angkor in Cambodia.

The rest of the Top 10 shaped up like this:

  1. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia
  2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  3. Machu Picchu, Peru
  4. Great Wall of China, China
  5. Taj Mahal, India
  6. Grand Canyon National Park, USA
  7. Colosseum, Italy
  8. Iguazu Falls, Brazil – Argentina
  9. Alhambra, Spain
  10. Aya Sofya, Turkey

And click on this link to see more of the list.

As you can see The Temples of Angkor are in pretty good company, but what made this temple complex in the jungles of Cambodia snatch the top spot?

Well let me tell you, it is pretty darn amazing. I feel so privileged to have seen this place, to have experienced it, walked around and soaked up the atmosphere, the sights, the smells, the heat, the dust, and the mighty creationsĀ of man and nature all in one place – it was all just out of this world.

To be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Of course I knew what Angkor Wat was, but I deliberately tried not to read too much about it or look at many photographs before our visit, so that when we finally arrived there I would not be disappointed or that I will still have the element of surprise. The only things I read upon was how to organize for tours, or what was the best way to see the place.

 

Getting to Siem Reap

The Temples of Angkor are located near the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. Siem Reap has an international airport, so it is actually pretty easy to get to. In fact it is only a 6 hour flight from Bali, or a 2 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur orĀ Singapore and a mere 1 hour flight from Bangkok. Really, there is no excuse not to go if you are in South East Asia. We travelled to Siem Reap from Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh on a cross-country coach service. The trip takes about 6 hours, we chose a company called Mekong Express to take us there. The coach left from Phnom Penh at 12.30 in the afternoon and arrived in Siem Reap at 7 pm. The coach had one scheduled stop halfway, which was really welcomed as the aircon on the bus was rubbish… The journey was luckily event-less; there was wifi on-board and both Adam and I had a double-seat all to ourselves that we could spread out on. The road between these two major cities isn’t great (although as I understand it has already improved a lot compared to what it was like before). The coach cost us $13 each. You can also fly from Phnom Penh, it takes about 45 minutes and costs $100 per person. For us it was a no-brainer to save that money and at the same time get to see some of the Cambodian countryside.

We booked our accommodation in Siem Reap through Booking.com. We stayed at the Schein Guesthouse, which is a B&B led by a German/Cambodian couple. I thoroughly recommend staying here if you are on a budget but still want a nice place to stay. The hosts were so helpful and friendly, we had a great time here and they really helped us with planning out our stay in Siem Reap.

Firstly they sent us a tuk-tuk to the coach station to pick us up free of charge, which was great as it was already dark and the coach station is on the outskirts of the city. Then at their reception they have a list of tours that can be done straight from their guesthouse to the Angkor Archaeological Park and depending on how long you have in the area they can advise on which tour is the best to take. This was incredibly useful for us, and I hope most other guesthouses would do it the same way. We decided to spend one full day discovering the temples and then leave another day for doing something else in Siem Reap. We only had two full days here as we had already booked our flights onward to Bali.

 

Getting around Angkor Archaeological Park

Our host at the guesthouse then showed us the best way to see the temples in a day and arranged a tuk-tuk for us with a 4.45am start the following day. One of the most memorable experiences you can have in Angkor is seeing the sunrise over its most iconic temple, Angkor Wat. Our tour was to take us to Angkor Wat just in time for the sunrise at half past 5. The tuk-tuk ride from central Siem Reap to the entrance of Angkor Archaeological Park took about 10 minutes. Here you have to queue up to pay, get your photograph taken and receive a photo-pass which serves as your ticket to the park. A daily ticket costs $20, a three-day ticket costs $40 and a weekly ticket costs $60. Once you have your ticket you can get back on your tuk-tuk and proceed into the park.

Some visitors rent bicycles to tour Angkor, some attempt it on foot, some go as part of a mini-bus tour. But most will hire their own tuk-tuk driver and pay them for their time, which is what we did, and I personally think this is the best way of exploring Angkor. The local guys have amazing knowledge and they know the park like the back of their hands. Our driver didn’t speak much English but he had a map of the park and we could just point at eachĀ temple we wanted to visit. I would not have attempted getting around the site on foot – this is an archaeological park stretching over some 400 square kilometres – it is VAST!! It is mainly jungle and there are around a thousand temples, shrines and tombs scattered all across it.

 

Itineraries and must-see temples in Angkor

I found a fantastic website for planning your trip to Angkor, you can find it here.

There are two main things to consider when seeing the temples of Angkor: how much time you have, and how interested you are. And by interest I mean that if you are not a history or theology or archaeology buff, you might find trekking from ancient temple to temple in the 40 degree Cambodian heat a little bit wearing. So if you only have one day (like we did) or if you are only interested in the most iconic temples of the park, here is a shortlist of must-see sites – visiting these will fit very nicely into a day:

  1. Angkor Wat – visit the most iconic temple early in the morning and watch the sunrise
  2. Angkor Thom – the old capital city of the Angkor empire
    1. Bayon – the temple of giant stone faces
    2. Baphuon – temple mountain with an enormous reclining Buddha
  3. Ta Phrom – the jungle temple

This is the itinerary that is suggested a lot of the time to tourists, however visiting the sites in this order will also mean you are moving with the crowds of tourists who are allĀ following this itinerary or are taken along this route by their guides.

If I can give you just one tip, it would be to turn this list upside down: visit Ta Phrom first thing in the morning, then move unto Angkor Thom and finally visit Angkor Wat towards late afternoon with the view to catch the sunset.

Here are a few photographs and some snippets of information on the must-see temples:

 

Angkor Wat:

Most people will come here for the morning to watch the sunrise, but I would advise you to go against the mold and visit this iconic Hindu temple in late afternoon. And why? My photographs below will show you exactly why I say this. First of all, if you are after a solitary sunrise experience, this isn’t it. It’s like when you look at photographs of Angkor Wat on Pinterest and you get the feeling that this is an undiscovered place of epic proportion; where you can come to reflect on things, as the sun slowly makes its way up the sky. And instead this is what you will experience:

 

 

Not exactly the solitary experience many of us were after. But to be fair, having so many other visitors there at sunrise also added something positive to the experience: the collective anticipation, knowing we were all there for the same reason, and everyone enjoying the moment together asĀ the first sun-rays appeared behind the towers of Angkor Wat.

Another reason why I would suggest you to go here later in the afternoon is to get prettier photographs. I can honestly say the light, as amazing it is at sunrise and early morning, is not fantastic to take photos in. Once the sun has made its way up higher in the sky it is actually very difficult to photograph the temple from the front, a lot of the detail is lost. I am quite disappointed to say I don’t have one photograph of the front of this magnificent temple that I actually like. Of course there are loads to look at on the internet, but we all want our own, don’t we…?! šŸ™‚

 

 

Of course missing the temple at sunrise would be a great shame, so perhaps you can start here for the sunrise and also return here for late afternoon / sunset. That way you might just get the best of both worlds. If you go for sunrise, prepare yourself, it gets super hot by Ā 7 am. Just like in any other South-East Asian country, you have to dress modestly and ideally wear long trousers or skirt and a top with sleeves. You should also wear something that is easy to move in and climb huge steps. A lot of huge steps.

One thing to be aware of when you visit Angkor Wat (and quite a few of the other temples as well, but mainly Angkor Wat): there are a LOT of vendors and hawkers and it can be a bit difficult to shake them off. Don’t get annoyed, just learn to kindly say no. There were also many school aged children there trying to sell us postcards, fridge magnets, etc, and as difficult it is, please don’t buy from them out of compassion. Buying from them will just encourage their parents to Ā keep sending them out to beg / sell. This is the advice amongst travellers anyway, so there, I’ve passed it on… šŸ˜‰