Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Chasing the Sunrise

The rain and thunder around 3 a.m. gave me doubt if I would be able to see sunrise in Angkor Wat.

Anyway my alarm rang at 4.30 a.m., and it was so hard to wake up... but it's once in my life to see sunrise in Angkor Wat. My Tuk Tuk driver had waited for me at 5am and we drove to Angkor War, it's only 15 minute drive from my hotel.

I wasn't the only one in the street. As soon as we turned right to the bigger street, I saw some tourists in their Tuk Tuk. In the street, some resident has already started their morning run as well!

Ticket office is already open and surrounded by tourists. Cambodian is free of charge to enter the Wat, I was told. It costs US$20 for 1-day pass. Using this pass I could go back and forth as many as I could in that day. There is other pass such as 3-day (US$40) and 7-day (US$60) passes.

There are different ticket counters for 1-day pass, 3-day pass or 7-day pass. Interestingly, there is a small camera at the ticket counter where I queued i.e. 1-day pass. Yup, it is just like in the immigration line at the airport. Ticket officer will take pic of each tourist. Smile…! I wonder what the purpose is. Perhaps it is to avoid people using other’s pass instead of purchasing his own?  

Mmm... It's good to see people around the world to wake up this early and travel to the Wat! In the modern word, Angkor Wat means the City Temple.

Waiting for the sunrise at Angkor Wat must be in everyone’s mind. Most visitors in Siem Reap must have an agenda visiting Angkor Wat and plenty of them might want to see the sunrise. I am one of them.

Wow... The pond which is the best spot to see the Wat had already surrounded by crowds! Even though all had to be disappointed as the sun was hiding behind clouds/fog.  

Nearby the pond, there are local vendors selling mineral water, cold soft drinks, a little bit of local snack.

Tents of the vendors

Angkor Wat is a big temple of around 1,000 by 800 m and 4.5 m high. In that morning, I did what I wanted to do; “me time” in Angkor Wat. I walked around the outer wall of the temple myself. It was tranquil…

The feeling of being there, at the World Heritage Site, is always good. As if this largest Hindu temple in the world (dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist) is giving good vibration -J

I read somewhere that one of the ways to enjoy Angkor Wat by chopper and balloon. Look who's in the balloon!!!

As to satisfying myself to know more about the history of the temple, I booked a tour guide for later that morning... So I went back to the hotel and took shower.

By the time I finished breakfast Seila, my tour guide, had waited for me. This guy used to work in a bakery in town until one day he had enough and changed his career to become a guide. He has been doing it for five years and is happy.

The schedule was for him to take me to see three major temples in “Angkor Archaeological Park”: Angkor Wat, Ta Prom (where Angelina Jolie shoot her movie Tomb Raider) and Bayon (Angkor Thom).

Anyway, for the first itinerary, I and Seila went back to Angkor Wat, together with Virek my Tuk Tuk driver. The sun was already up around 9 a.m. It was 33 degree Celsius in early May. Yes, it was hot! So please bring water…

Gorgeous wall ornament

Once more, I was at Angkot Wat, this time was with Seila who is very informative. He showed me parts that I had not gone earlier that morning…

Library for common people @ Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat has a few libraries dedicated for three different classes of people; common people, ministers and the King or royal family. Common people can only enter library that is dedicated for them.

Steep narrow stairs @ Angkor Wat

Different stairs were also dedicated to different classes. The King had used more comfortable ones, of course.

Meanwhile, the staircase for common people is very steep and narrow. As to climb up, feeling like the Spiderman-J as hands are needed to help climbing. Getting down is more challenging…

Beautiful ornament at the wall of Angkor Wat

“Cambodian Riel” is the official currency of Cambodia, however US$ is used everywhere. It is good to bring US$ notes including the small bank notes such as US$ 1 to buy mineral water, etc.

What's coming up next?  They are still related to my 3 day trip in Siem Reap, Cambodia => "Ta Prom" (to see the footprints left behind by Angelina Jolie) and "Bayon" Temples.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cambodia, Siem Reap

A day before I left Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Siem Reap, I realized that Cambodia is Prince Norodom Sihanouk's country.

As I consider myself as a member of ASEAN countries, I remember his name ever since I was a kid. At school, we had to remember the names of Presidents, Vice Presidents, Sultans, and Prime Ministers of all ASEAN countries. I even remember that his wife's name is Monique. I used to like watching him on TV during the ASEAN ceremonies.

Most of the people I know in Vietnam, has visited Cambodia or to be specific the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Therefore, after almost a year living in Saigon, and when I was about to move somewhere else, I had to make an effort to go to Siem Reap!

One of the street directions

Hallo Siem Reap!

Is there any privilege of being ASEAN country member? Visa exemption! No need to queue at the immigration upon arrival.

It is only 45 minutes flying from Saigon, and I arrived safely at the destination! Virek, the Tuk Tuk driver from the hotel, picked me up at the airport. He has been working as Tuk Tuk driver for ten years and speaks good English.

The Prince's House

As soon as we got out of the airport, rain started. Apparently, May to October is rainy season… It's hot and humid. Oh well, the hotel reception said their saying about the rain; when it rains, it means the king is walking. Wow... Am I the queen who is walking now?

Soria Moria is a hotel in the center of Siem Reap that I found through TripAdvisor. Good choice. The room is big, spacious and clean. Wifi is available. Staff is helpful.

The Old Market

The Old Market is apparently only 5 minute by Tuk Tuk from my hotel. It's a traditional market, lots of shops selling garment, souvenirs, coffee, day to day needs, etc. My favorite thing to see is the cute Cambodian women pants, different designs and colors.

Shopping in Siem Reap requires bargaining skills which I am not fond about it. Partly is because I don't know the real market price. Other stuff that attracts my attention is the cushion sheet with colorful beads in elephant shape. It is similar to Thai's souvenir.

It's a different attitude of people around the world. In this Old Market, shop attendants are not aggressive. At least when I was there! Perhaps it's because it was during the quiet time after lunch, or probably it's because it was raining and less customers.

Pub Street, Old Market

Pub Street is walking distance to the Old Market.  Along the street where the Blue Pumpkin restaurant is, I noticed there are some cute shops!

Amok Fish & Coconut @ Blue Pumpkin

As my first introduction to Cambodian cuisine, I had Amok Fish, yummy…. and fresh coconut to satisfy myself with the thirst...

After good late lunch, I walked to find those cute clothes shops. One of them is Old Forest which is owned by Japanese entrepreneur. Most of his clothes are designed by Japanese designers. When he knew that I am Indonesian, he told me that he likes Bali and Batik!

On the way to floating village


You should be the master of your own mind, wise man says. You should be the captain of your own trip.

The monks, near boat dock,
floating village

After refusing to visit the Landmine Museum and Silk Market, I finally accepted the idea of visiting the floating village; Chong Kneas, Tonle Sap – with a wish to see the sunset.

Tuk Tuk and small cafe, boat dock, floating village
Petrol station on the way to floating village

It is 18km return trip by Tuk Tuk, after the rain, has a little bit of challenge i.e. dusty road. Anyway, on the way to this village, I got to see how the people live in this area; some live in wooden stilted house. Closer to the destination, there are paddy/rice fields on both sides of the road.

Floating Village

This floating village is the closest to Siem Reap. Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia. As soon as I arrived, I paid boat fee of US$25. Plus the Tuk Tuk costs US$11 (return).

Floating Village

Like in other floating village, people live and work in the boat, use the water for living. There is hospital, school, church, restaurants and market. 

During the trip, I was taken to a shop and offered to donate drink/food for the school children nearby. Yes, it is up to us if we want to do so. So it is a mixed feeling. Partly, I want to do something for the kids, but this approach was out of my expectation. They asked a few times and I politely responded. They understood.

Coming back at the mainland, while I walked to find my Tuk Tuk, blessing in disguise, I got this cute pic of Tuk Tuk and green rice field.

I could not see real sunset that day, but I had a hope to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat the next morning! *

*It will be uploaded soon!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Shanghai in the Night

Shanghai, The Bund

Enjoying Saturday night in Shanghai surrounded by lovely people was one of the highlights during this trip.

Shanghai in the evening @ The Bund

Thanks to William, a friend of my loved one, we went to a nice restaurant at the Bund. It is situated at 7th floor of a nice old European architectural building that strategically facing the Bund - the prestigious area in Shanghai. The Bund or locally known as Wai Tan, is the waterfront area and is regarded as symbol of Shanghai. It is on the west bank of Huangpu River from the Waibaidu Bridge to Nanpu Bridge.

The view from 7th Floor

While waiting for our table, we went outside to the open terrace; the Bund, Huangpu river, high rise buildings and interesting architectural structures in this neighborhood. There were many people walking in the streets! The beautiful lights of buildings across the river, the windy 17 degree Celsius made a such romantic atmosphere.

There is more than good food served up at New Heights. As appetizer, the three of us had mushroom soup, foie gras and crab salad. As for the main course, we had sole fish, cod fish and steak. My sole fish was served with baked potato with sour creme and chives.  Yummy…  It was impossible to skip the dessert! Three scoops of ice cream was a perfect choice! I never tried ‘black sesame ice cream’ before, and this first experience was actually good.

As a personal note, this dinner was part of my French listening exercise. Toutefois j’ai pris beaucoup appr├ęcie ce diner. Merci William.

One of the momuments @ Shanghai, in one of the traffic lights

More to Explore!

Sunday morning was brighter than Saturday. So it’s time to peep at the other part of Shanghai, the modern city!

The high rise buildings in the surrounding of People's Park

People’s Park

Can you see the old building (left) & old one (right)?
Like this match!
It is a good idea to combine the visit to People's Park and Nanjing Road. They are located in the same area. By the way, it is also near to the Shanghai Old Town.

Well, a day before, the distance between my hotel and Shanghai Old Town is 9km. However, on that day, a different taxi driver took a different route of 21km! Mmm…. My intuition told me to note his Driver ID number and so I did.

Anyway, People’s Park is big park at the heart of the city. Anyone can come in and enjoy the green garden. Lots of activities on Sunday morning; a guy doing his Tai Chi, people just walked around and enjoy the garden, some people took pics of the lovely Lotus Pond, small group of tourists, etc…

Me, I like to take pics – from this park looking at the high rise building – as I notice there is combination of mixed old and modern buildings in the surrounding.

My loved one? He likes to take pics of the flowers, lotus in the pond including the water droplets in the leaf-J

In one corner of the park, we saw many handwritten advertisement (or small posters) in the local language. We were clueless… what is it about? Classified advertisement?

Nanjing Road

Shopping! Nanjing road = shopping!

That’s the first impression of this street. It is ‘where to be’ for shopping. Perhaps I could say this is the place where to be seen? It is such a busy shopping street and also the main shopping street in Shanghai. It could be similar to other famous shopping streets in Asia such as Orchard Road in Singapore, or Dong Khoi in Ho Chi Minh City -J Kalau di Jakarta, kurang lebih mall2 di seputaran Senayan - Sudirman - Thamrin gitu kali yaaa...

It is within walking distance from People’s Park. The street is close to any vehicle except the ‘mini train’ shuttle from one point of the street to the other end…. If you are too lazy to walk, you can pay and take this ‘mini train’, which is normally full with children -J

That's the mini train shuttle

Nanjing Road comprises two sections, Nanjing Road East and Nanjing Road West. Hundreds of shops, restaurants, cafes, and hotels are in this area. All types of shops, malls, street alleys, from the famous brands, fast food franchise restaurants, traditional medicine, or street vendors showing leaflets of supposedly ‘branded bags or watches'.

The weekend crowd at Nanjing Road

There were many people, of course, it was weekend. No mood for shopping or barganining. Just window shopping... Jalan-jalan...

Cute shops. L: chopstiks shop. R: chocolate shop!

We just went for a stroll along Nanjing Road West. There is a number of upmarket malls, office buildings, Exhibition Centre and more shops.

After being tired of walking, we stopped at an outdoor coffee place. There is Mojo in Shanghai too! Well, Mojo is a name of a coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City. That’s where I and my girlfriends like to go for coffee. Jokingly, one of them said that Mojo stands for Mojokerto! It’s one of districts in East Java province in Indonesia.

Left: Mo'Jo in Shanghai. Right: Mojo in Ho Chi Minh City

Finally, we arrived at the destination of where we wanted to be…. 

The Bund in Daylight - Hello Shanghai...!!

The Bund in Daylight

Yes, I went to the Bund the night before….. It is not self-defense response, but indeed the Bund looks pretty as it is in the evening…

Let's take a walk, The Bund, Shanghai

It is really “the place” for photo shoots…

It was windy, a bit cold but still bearable...

Be creative in pics taking. My style – this style – was copied by the guy next to me!-J

See, I can hold that tower!!!

Let’s jump!

** Next stories to come.... Cambodia..... and other places...