Alila Enters Cambodia with Stylish Alila Sothea

July 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Crossroad of Asia, Exotic South East, Hotels

A new dash of style and luxury has made its way to Siem Reap. The luxury boutique resort Alila Sothea has re-launched and re-opened, a stylish resort marking Alila’s entry into Cambodia. Located in Siem Reap, this latest addition to Alila’s lifestyle collection is nestled in the heart of Siem Reap, the throne of Khmer culture.

The location is famous for the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Temples. With beautiful landscapes comprising gardens, fountains and magical waterways, all forming a lovely backdrop to the resorts’ contemporary interiors infused with Khmer traditions.

The Alila brand is widely famed for its stylish design and stunning architecture, and this latest property follows the same blueprint that sees the brand heralded as the world’s coolest chain by Sunday Times UK at the beginning of 2011. Alila delights visitors with its cultural sensitivity and unique experiences, and fans will not be disappointed with this new property. Fans will be rewarded with the many new initiatives incorporated under Alila Hospitalities at Alila managed properties.


All guests at Alila Sothea will benefit from the use of the Alila Tuk-Tuk services on call to enable leisurely exploration of the stunning local sites and town at their own pace. The service will provide guests will the use of a local mobile phone and a personal driver which will be at their beck and call. They can request pick-ups and transports from wherever in town, to and fro the resort.

The property also boast an award-winning Spa Alila, the recipient of Asian Spa 2010 Award for Eco-Spa of the Year. This award-winning spa was developed by Alila, strictly using locally developed products to deliver unique rejuvenating services that guests can look forward to. The brand’s emphasis on intimate spaces, unique design and culturally relevant experiences, the Alila Sothea makes the perfect addition to the burgeoning Alila portfolio.

As part of the launch, Alila Sothea is offering three introductory packages, each valid until 30th September 2011 –
Siem Reap Escapade – US$207 per night for 3 nights at the Deluxe Room
An Angkor Discovery – US$440 per night for 3 nights at the Queen Room
A Royal Angkor Experience – US593 per night for 3 nights at the King Room
All packages are inclusive of airport transfer, breakfast, and use of the spa. For more information, please visit www.alilahotels.com/sothea

Spend a holiday in Greece and get to know a bit more about the culture, cuisine and history of the Greek nation. Their hospitality will win you over and the sunshine will keep you going back.

Six Romantic Asian Backdrops

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Attractions, General Fun, Nature

There’s no doubt that Asian is the land of inspiration and romance. It has often been the place for honeymoons, destination weddings, one night stands and I don’t know specifically but I bet a handful of marriage proposals too! But where to go to find that spark that will make your heart skip a beat? Here are six great backdrops – but no matter where you go, be sure to head off the beaten path, walk a little further, and see if you can find that perfect spot to lose everyone else and maybe find yourself.

Photo credit - farbfilm

Photo credit - farbfilm

Halong Bay, Vietnam

I know what you’re thinking – how cliché. But try taking a sunset cruise along Halong Bay – it is one of those experiences that is hard to forget. The bay is one of Vietnam’s crowded UNESCO World Heritage sites, so why not book the junk boat that actually spends the night in the bay and get away from it all? The junk boat to Cat Ba Island is also nice and a little less overpopulated. You can get by in Halong Bay on the cheap, but don’t – spend that little bit extra and you’ll get a lot more for your money, particularly when it comes to excursions and anything out on the water.

Photo credit - nurpax

Photo credit - nurpax

Jeju Island, South Korea

One of the stops in this island will definitely make your heart skip a beat – and give you a good giggle in the process. Some things are “oh gads, only in Asia” and Jeju Loveland is one of them. It’s a theme park dedicated to sex. From the phallus gardens to the interactive exhibits (link is NSFW!), you and your lover will see in 3D every sexual position possible. Skip the kama sutra and see this stuff in action! Other than that, Jeju Island is a popular honeymoon spot for Koreans, so once you’ve had your laughs get out and explore the island’s other natural attractions. Hike towards the top of Sunrise Peak for a mesmerizing sunset, or head towards one of the many beautiful waterfalls adorning the island.

Photo credit - tboothhk

Photo credit - tboothhk

Stanley, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is great, but the hustle and bustle (not to mention the pollution) aren’t exactly romantic bliss. I prefer to cross the island and head to Stanley, a very quaint little fishing village. Spend a few hours exploring the markets, then sit and watch the sunset. It’s dreamy. Stanley has some excellent restaurants, including a few fabulous dim sum shops, so come hungry. There are some walking trails in the area and other little towns to explore, so you don’t have to spend your time confined in Stanley itself.

Photo credit - Dave B

Photo credit - Dave B

Siem Reap, Cambodia

So Siem Reap is no tourism secret – in fact, it’s so popular it is sinking back into the ground. Not cool. But hire an air conditioned van (or a tuk-tuk, if you prefer the wind in your hair and can stomach the bumpy roads) and go off exploring into the countryside. The Angkor Wat complex is absolutely massive and few tourists manage to get very far off the beaten path. It’s a shame because some of the temples are just as amazing and a sight less busy. Check out Banteay Srei, one of the more popular ones but still more quiet. The carvings in the stone are so intricate, you won’t believe it is stone. Inspiring.

Photo credit - ManojVasanth

Photo credit - ManojVasanth

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

The state of Rajasthan in India is the country’s largest and has many unique sights to visit for romantic inspiration. From the Great Indian Desert to the hundreds of massive palaces and temples, you could spend weeks finding yourself in Rajasthan. I suggest a few special days in Jaipur, the state capital. It’s known as the pink city, and is one of India’s first planned cities. Because of this, I think, the views are just endless, from the Albert Hall Museum to the Jal Mahal or the Amber Fort. You’ll be blown away by the color and never look at the world the same. You don’t have to build your lover a temple, but you can take them to one.

Eastern and Oriental Express, Southeast Asia

Just saying the worlds orient express conjures up visions of sensual seduction while you glide across the rails. The reality is that while this is one of very few ultra-deluxe trains, there are more than one. But the Asian version is called the Eastern and Oriental Express and it has a number of routes between the cities of Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, and Chiang Mai. What better way to spend a romantic retreat than by tucking away into the luxury of this iconic train between visits to any of these classic Asian destinations?

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Seven Great Lakes in Asia

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Feature Highlights, Nature

Who doesn’t like a great lake? No, not those great lakes, but any lake where you can see an amazing reflection or view that forces you to make your own reflection. Whether it’s a serene place or an amazing lake that has a story, these are great places to stop for a rest and think. Write in your journal. Or just relax – isn’t that what lakes are for?

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Mirror Lake, New Zealand

Sunrise at the Mirror Lake in New Zealand, near Fox Village, is no mean feat. You must drive or bike a few miles from town, then trek in the darkness around the lake to get this view. But it is certainly a noteworthy goal, as a lake clear as glass and silent makes way for this surreal mirror image as light fills the sky. It is a must-see when seeing the glaciers in the area, and even during midday a walk around the entire lake is lovely.

If you’re looking for more reasons to visit New Zealand, look no further than our Dreaming of New Zealand photo blog.

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Tonle Sap, Cambodia

The Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, expanding many times its size during monsoon season. Because of the incredible change in landscape between dry and wet seasons, the people who live near here stay on floating villages – complete with televisions, petrol stations, and other typical amenities. It is a surreal sight to behold, especially since the far shore of the lake cannot be seen, leaving you feeling as if you are afloat at sea. It is possible to visit as a daytrip from Siem Reap.

There is more to this Asian country than sun-baked ruins and temples galore. Retreat to the south and experience Cambodia’s shore, full of beaches and off-beat sights to be explored.

Photo credit - Susonauta

Photo credit - Susonauta

Lake Biwa, Japan

Lakek Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan; because of its location next to the historic capital of Japan, it is well known to Japanese historians, but the lake’s beaches are also popular to those not interested in history or literature. Other popular attractions include Ukimido, the floating temple, the Seta no Karahashi Bridge (especially at sunset!), and biwako Hana Funsui – the world’s largest water fountain.

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal, just north of the Mongolian border in Russia, is a geological phenomenon. It is massive, containing 20% of the world’s surface freshwater and the deepest (and strangely, clearest) lakes in the world. Because of this and the hundreds of unique species that live here and nowhere else, Lake Baikal is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. The resort of Listvyanka is also a UNESCO site and popular stopping point.

Not far from there, check out as well our exploration of Kamchatka, at the far eastern edge of Russia.

Photo credit - George Lu

Photo credit - George Lu

Lake Wuhua Hai, China

Wuhua Hai, meaning ‘five flower lake’ in Chinese, is one of several of the amazing lakes in the Jiuzhaigou Valley. The name is appropriate, because just in the span of a few meters the lake changes color, from blue to black to yellow to green and back again. It is surreal, spooky, and amazing. Don’t miss the other lakes here in the valley, such as China’s version of the Mirror Lake featured above.

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Would you believe the above photo was shot in Kyrgyzstan? Lakes are a popular tourist attraction in the mountainous countryside of Kyrgyzstan, and Lake Issyk-Kul is no exception. It’s hidden inside a deep valley, giving you endless views of the snowy peaks of the Tian Shan mountains. It was a popular resort destination during Soviet times, and although those resorts fell into disrepair, they are making a resurgence with foreign tourists.

Check out our recent series of posts, where we covered the four “Stans”, starting from Kazakhstan, Tajiskistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake in central Myanmar is the second largest lake in the country and one of its highest. An entire population of people, called the Intha, have built their lives and villages around this lake. Visit in September or October where you can experience Hpaung Daw U Festival, where Buddha images from the nearby Pagoda are paraded around the lake and there are dozens of boat races. This is followed by the Thadingyut festival of lights celebration.

Myanmar is also home to off-the-beaten-path Putao, a destination that is a veritable paradise on earth.

* Note: Some people seem to get held up with my definition of Asia. Asia = all of the destinations featured on Unearthing Asia, which includes places you might call “Australasia” or “Middle East.” Enjoy.


If you are planning a visit to Asia, don’t forget to check out Unearthing Asia, the best Asia travel portal focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. We have got some of the best Cheap Holiday Deal and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of must-try Malaysian foods.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

The Cambodian Shore

March 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Exotic South East, Nature

If you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll likely have been to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Wat complex. But there is more to this Asian country than sun-baked ruins and temples galore. Retreat to the south and experience Cambodia’s shore, full of beaches and off-beat sights to be explored.

Photo credit - A of Doom

Photo credit - A of Doom

Sihanoukville (Kampong Som)

The New York Times called Sihanoukville “Asia’s next trendsetting beach,” and I think after the long, hard history of Sihanoukville it deserves the title. The French helped build this city out of the jungle to serve as a port town, but during the Pol Pot regime the area fell into disrepair. But in the last ten years, the area had blossomed and taken hold a new lease on life. From trendy internet cafes to boutique hotels, Sihanoukville has transformed from a backpacker stop to more mainstream.

The main highlight is the coast, where you’ll find a few beach options. Ochheuteal and Serendipity Beaches are the most popular (and thus the most crowded). Victory Beach is also popular and crowded, but if you’re willing to head out of town a bit, Otres Beach is a nice choice and has similar sand/shore as Serendipity Beach.

You can’t walk around from point to point in Sihanoukville but as elsewhere in Cambodia, there will always be a tuk-tuk waiting to take you. They’ll extraordinarily cheap here to hire for the short distances required.

Photo credit - Phillie Casablanca

Photo credit - Phillie Casablanca

Bokor National Park

By the sounds of it, you’d expect forests and lush green scenery if headed to national park. In this, case, though, you do get a Hollywood-backdrop worthy sight, but just slightly different. The main attraction here is an old French hill station, built during the French occupation in the 1920s and meant as a retreat for soldiers. It’s been abandoned and left in a very unusual state – you have to see it to understand.

Other nearby sights include waterfall hikes, the black palace, and the old casino. All ruins and artefacts in their own right, but from a totally different era than Angkor Wat.

Please note: Construction works on the roads leading to Bokor means travel is limited. Check with your travel agent or a local prior to your journey.

Photo credit - Adam Jones

Photo credit - Adam Jones

Kep

Hard to believe it now, but Kep was the ‘in’ destination on the Cambodian shore in the 60s. Nearly abandoned, it hasn’t recovered as much in recent times as Sihanoukville. It is still a great stop to see some abandoned architecture, like Bokor, but also to experience some essential Kep lifestyle.

Your first stop should be for crabs! You’ll find the freshest crabs in the country here, so you can’t miss out on a meal of it here. If you don’t fancy crab, then any dish in the many seafood restaurants will do. You’ll want to make sure and pair your meal with the famous Kep peppercorns – there’s a pepper plantation in Phnom Voir, just outside the city, that’s worth visiting and all of the restaurants locally use the pepper in sauces and dishes. Absolutely delicious.

For outdoors-y things to do, check out the trail that goes around Kep Mountain. It’s about 5 miles and well signposted. If you’re feeling lazy, though, stick to the beach – Kep Beach is the main strip. From Kep Beach you can also take a boat over to Rabbit Island, a super-quiet destination with wonderful white sandy beaches too.

If You Go

To reach Sihanoukville, a good gateway to the rest of the shore area, you have a couple of options from Phnom Penh:
Bus. It’s a four hour journey but thankfully the road is one of the better ones in Cambodia. Mekong Express and Sorya are two of several operators. Book in advance to ensure a seat. Approx US$4.50.
Taxi. Reduces the trip to three hours but cost can range from US$30-40. There’s also the option to rideshare, which can be a little odd considering in Cambodia this means 6-8 people in one taxi.

Sihanoukville does have an airport, but as far as I know due to a crash in 2007, the only air service was suspended.

Unearthing Asia now offers travel packages throughout the region of Asia. Check out our promotional offers of Luxury Private Villas in Bali, perfect for Honeymooners or those looking for a little romance. We also have great offers for hotels in Singapore, resorts in Phuket and many more.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Top Attractions in Koh Chang

January 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Culture, Exotic South East

This 429 square kilometer of land is called Koh Chang, or Elephant Island, for a reason. It’s not because of its size, but instead its more to do with the island’s imaginative elephant-like shape. Located in the eastern most province of Thailand, bordering Cambodia, Koh Chang was declared Thailand’s 45th national park.

Along with more than 40 surrounding small islands, it became Mu Koh Chang National Park in 1982. As such, you can expect pristine environment and serenity in Koh Chang, a magic bound to enchant its tourists. So this isn’t your regular touristy island crowded by five-star hotels, resorts and bars but a peaceful mountainous island with pearl-white beaches, coral-riddled water and spectacular waterfalls.

Photo credits - clayirving

Photo credits - clayirving

Excellent Beaches

Not all the good beaches are in southern Thailand. At Koh Chang, you can choose to sunbathe on the delicate white sand at the famed White Sand Beach, complete with shops, restaurants and a variety of accommodation. Or you can enjoy the less crowded Klong Prao Beach where many luxury beach hotels are situated. Kai Bae Beach is another popular place among travelers since its a safe place to swim, with many inexpensive bungalows situated nearby.

Photo credits - whitecat singapore

Photo credits - whitecat singapore

Historical Dive Sites

Koh Chang was a strategic place during the Indochina War, and it turned into a full battlefield between the French Navy and the Thai Navy. The Songkhla and Chonburi, two battleship wrecks in the sea near Ao Salak Phet, make for an attractive diving site. Those not so adventurous can simply opt to snorkel instead of dive, and the sea around Koh Chang boast abundant marine diversity. After reliving the historical clash between battleships of old, visit the Battle of Koh Chang Monument to get a complete sense of the island’s historical importance.

Photo credits - Eternal Vagabond

Photo credits - Eternal Vagabond

Explore the Sea

Hire a boat service and visit other small islands within the national park, many of which can compete with Koh Chang for beauty. If you have plenty of time, try a relaxing sailboat and absorb the cool, salty wind amidst the orange sunset sky. The main hubs for boats are the White Sand Beach, Klong Prao Beach, Kai Bae Beach and Bang Bao Beach.

Photo credits - Eternal Vagabond

Photo credits - Eternal Vagabond

Waterfalls

The tropical forest of Koh Chang plays host to numerous waterfalls. One of the must-see attractions is the Than Mayom Waterfall, a four-level waterfall that falls almost perpendicularly from a steep, black granite crag. Both King Rama V and King Rama VI of Thailand signed their initials at the top of the cliff. Nearby, the Klong Phlu Waterfall is another beautiful three-level waterfall that is famed for its beauty.

Photo credits - captainsticky

Photo credits - captainsticky

Elephant Trail

One of the easiest mode of transport that lets you go deep into the jungle to enjoy various mesmerizing sight is by way of riding an elephant. The aptly named Elephant’s Island is host to many charming elephants waiting to serve tourists. These adorable animals are friendly and strong, and can easily take you through the most exquisite spots in Koh Chang’s beautiful jungle.

Photo credits - Darko Pevec

Photo credits - Darko Pevec

Trekker’s Paradise

For those preferring the feel of the earth on your feet, Koh Chang is a veritable trekker’s paradise. With its undisturbed forest abundant with wild animals, hiking has never been more interesting, with routes ranging from simple to challenging. The best routes are in the southern half of the island, where you can see animals such as the stump-tailed macaque, silvered langur, and Javan mongoose, amongst many others!

Photo credits - captainsticky

Photo credits - captainsticky

Traditional Village Life

Because of its isolation, Koh Chang residents are able to maintain certain lifestyles that are sure to be of interest. You can experience the real fisherman’s life at Bang Bao fishermen’s village, where residents live in houses built on the sea connected to each other by bridges. At Salak Kok village, residents still keep their old way of life.

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Unearthing Asia now offers travel packages throughout the region of Asia. Check out our promotional offers of Luxury Private Villas in Bali, perfect for Honeymooners or those looking for a little romance. We also have great offers for hotels in Singapore, resorts in Phuket and many more.

About the Author. Char Magalong. Char Magalong, freelance web designer and programmer, spent two years living, working and traveling in Singapore. Another two years stint right after that in Malaysia led to homesickness, after which she promptly returned to the Philippines. With her myriad of treasured experiences for apt comparison, she comments regularly on the beauty of Philippines and its surrounding country side.

Sal’s Travelogue #4 – All Road Leads North

June 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East

Following a quick stop in Cambodia, our writer Sal heads North towards Don Det to meet up with his two traveler friends, Antoine and Valeria. There, he was greeted by the sight of a very comfortable hammock hanging in the balcony of a room that the Canadians had reserved on his behalf.

Waking up whenever you want without any obligations – fundamental principles for the perfect holiday; and Don Det provided the perfect setting for such. It wasn’t quite the beach paradise I imagined it to be, yet the calm waters surrounding the island and the laid back vibe coming from its inhabitants was enticing enough for me to want to stay for a full week.

Don Det. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Don Det. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Sunset over Don Det. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Sunset over Don Det. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

I found Antoine and Valerie at the Sunset Guesthouse and Happy Bar – no prizes for guessing why the places were named as such. They helped me reserve a cabana that faced an endless horizon that entertained the setting sun in full glory. When the day drew to a close, I was awestruck by how the sky would gradually turn from a calm blue to a rosy pink. With gentle clouds misting the horizon, the sight of a red sun drawing into the distance was nothing short of magical. For US$ 3 a night, I wasn’t expecting the best sleeping conditions – yet a bed, pillows and a mosquito net were all that I needed for a night’s rest in the cabana.

Although they had spent six full days in Don Det, the Canadian pair had not seen much of Laos, and dinner was a perfect time for the three of us to discuss where we would travel to next.

Happy that I was finally reunited with my friends, it didn’t matter that I was only spending a day and night in Don Det – because clearly, the real journey would be up North; deeper into the Southern Laos province of Champassek. Breakfast the next morning was hardly a concerning issue. A decent fill of bacon and eggs, and we were off on a boat to the mainland, which would become the starting point of our journey towards the Phou Asa village; famed for its elephant trails and nature reserve.

As you might recall, Antoine and Valerie were traveling on bicycles they brought from Canada – so how was I about to make it through 120 km? I walked. Though I still wonder what convinced me to attempt walking to the village, perhaps it was a good thing that my shoes gave way after 40 km along Highway 13. Every passing vehicle seemed curious as to what I was doing out on the highway alone. With pick up trucks passing every ten minutes or so, hitching a ride became no problem at all.

Our guesthouse at Phou Asa. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Our guesthouse at Phou Asa. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Soon enough, I was halfway along Highway 13, in the back of a heading North, towards the provincial capital of Pakse. All I had to do was get off at the junction that would lead me East towards Phou Asa. I had my eyes peeled to look out for the Canadians all throughout the bumpy ride, but they must have stopped for rest, since I couldn’t spot their shiny red bicycles.

After two rides and plenty of small talk with locals about the area, seeing elephant dung littered along the dirt roads helped me confirm that I had arrived at Phou Asa; famed for its elephant trails. The Canadians had not arrived, so I took the time to find lodging. The only guesthouse in the village was full, so the remaining option was a home stay with one of the village families. By the time Antoine and Valerie arrived, it was almost night. Thankfully, Mrs Seng and Mr Bai – our home stay hosts – had already prepared our rooms and dinner as well.

With a good night’s rest at the home stay, our second day there found us eager to venture into the conservation areas. To realize that an elephant ride would cost us about US$10 per elephant was a bit of a disappointment – but that was nothing to stop us from venturing through the woods on foot.

ban-tang-beng-4

Jungle Trekking. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Jungle Trekking. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

The landscape in the reserve proved to be quite a mystery, as we trekked through forested areas, a hill made of volcanic rock and ruins left from an old fort. In all, it took us a good four to five hours before we completed our exploration. With an hour spent on lunch, it was about time we thought of a way to carry on North, towards Pakse.

While Valerie and I opted for a ride on the back of a truck, intrepid Antoine set off on his bicycle for a 60 kilometre ride to Pakse. Needless to say, Valerie and I arrived before he did – but it was already six in the evening, and guest houses were either full or too pricey. With rain clouds gathering above us, our frantic search for a room was the stuff of reality TV.

Somehow, I’ve always felt that these things have ways of working themselves out. That evening, I was right. Whether it was a matter of time or just our luck – we chanced upon the Nalin Tachaleun Guest House, with a vacant room for the three of us at 100,000kip (approximately US$ 10). As the rain began to pour, it was just Valerie and I, looking out from the balcony. While street lights flickered, with people clearing the streets – there in the distance we saw, a familiar red bicycle racing down the road with a foreigner peddling calmly. Antoine had arrived.

Sal’s Travelogue – #1: Solo#2: Saigon Green#3: Detours

About the Author. Sal S-S. A writer by profession, a free spirit by nature – Sal believes that his life’s one purpose is to see it all, learn it all and do it all. Currently based as a freelance copywriter in Singapore, it is for life’s many unknowns and uncertainties that he sets his sights beyond borders and into new discoveries. Living and working for the journey itself and nothing less, it is with pen in hand and passion at heart that he contributes to Unearthing Asia.

Sal’s Travelogue #3 – Detours

June 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East

After traversing the Mekong Delta with new found friends, our writer Sal had to say goodbye to the Norwegians, and head north to meet up with two other travelers he befriended in his past journey. Follow him here on his detours towards the North!

Revisiting Cambodia. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Revisiting Cambodia. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

“Sorry we didn’t send you a message sooner – the nearest internet café has been down for the past couple of days. We’ve been here three days now – you really have to see this place: it’s amazing! Come quickly to paradise, because Antoine is bored and wants to start cycling up North!”

It may have been my first solo journey, but part of it included heading up north to meet Valerie and Antoine, a pair of Canadians that I befriended on my last visit to Cambodia. The challenge wasn’t catching up with travelers on bicycles – but shortening my second visit to the wonderful kingdom of Cambodia, so I could arrive on time in Southern Laos.

Goodbyes have always been hard on me, but goodbyes had to be said nonetheless, as I parted ways with the Norwegians. Off they were, up the Vietnam coast – while I ventured west into Cambodia. Having already been to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, I was more interested in revisiting Cambodian moto riders than revisiting landmarks such as Angkor Wat and The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek).

The Killing Fields. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

The Killing Fields. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

A torture chamber. Photo credit - Mozzer502.

A torture chamber. Photo credit - Mozzer502.

Fortunately, all I had to do was show up at the very same guesthouses I stayed at previously, to share good laughs once more with Jaa from Phmom Penh, and Ratha and Tirra from Siem Reap. Since I was only in Phnom Penh for a day, I set out to see Choeung Ek again – this time, with a digital SLR that I brought as a lesson learnt from previously losing film to the airport’s x-ray machines.

The visit felt like a reiteration of my experience at Saigon’s War Remnants Museum. The memorial tower itself, with its central column of genocide skulls, presents a surreal example of how mankind’s worst demons are bred from within the human race itself.

On my way back on Jaa’s moto, I felt pretty good about bringing the DSLR – especially because of how photogenic the Cambodian countryside is, with children running after kites and the evening sunlight setting the vast fields ablaze with colour and contrast.

A day in Phnom Penh, and I was off on a five-hour bus to Siem Reap. I wasn’t there just to visit Ratha and Tirra, but also to find out if they knew anything about an overland route I could take to Laos from Siem Reap. It was already the 16th, and I was trying to make it to Si Phan Don (The 4,000 islands, Laos) by the 18th to meet Valerie and Antoine. Arriving at Siem Reap in the evening reminded me of how romantic the streets of Psar Chaa can be – especially for tourists seeking a welcoming platform from which to take in the country’s rich culture and scenery.

However, I wasn’t really that interested in all that was rustic and rich. After making contact with Ratha and Tirra from the Popular Guesthouse near Psar Chaa, we made a beeline for their favourite watering hole – which was an eight minute ride away from Psar Chaa. If Saigon Green was the beer to mark my earlier experiences in South Vietnam, then Angkor beer was the recreational icon for my short stay in Cambodia.

The beer and company was good – but news that I had to take a bus around the mountains to Laos, wasn’t. Apparently, the journey would probably take three days; with stopovers at Kompong Cham and Kratie.

Don Det. Serene and Tranquil. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Don Det. Serene and Tranquil. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

I guess being able to hold your liquor around Cambodians is a good thing – especially since getting chummy with the big group of locals at the bar resulted in the entire bar entering a huge discussion about the fastest way for me to get to Si Phan Don. Being in touch with the locals obviously has its advantages – because I made it in the end, to the island of Don Det on the morning of the 18th – only having to spend the previous night nestled in a guesthouse in rustic Kratie.

If motorcycles represented Saigon, and Angkor Wat was the icon of Siem Reap – then Don Det would easily find co-relation to the hammock. Walking through the island’s humble pathways, it seemed like all the other travelers had found themselves new definitions of comfort through combinations of hammock, a good book and novelty ‘happy’ shakes that were an understandable favourite among the younger travelers.

‘Perhaps rushing through Cambodia was worth it’; I thought, as my eyes laid rest upon a picture perfect view of the lake, and finally, upon the sight of a very comfortable hammock hanging in the balcony of a room that the Canadians had reserved on my behalf. Don Det was when my journey truly began.

About the Author. Sal S-S. A writer by profession, a free spirit by nature – Sal believes that his life’s one purpose is to see it all, learn it all and do it all. Currently based as a freelance copywriter in Singapore, it is for life’s many unknowns and uncertainties that he sets his sights beyond borders and into new discoveries. Living and working for the journey itself and nothing less, it is with pen in hand and passion at heart that he contributes to Unearthing Asia.

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