Angkor Wat, another wonder of the world

My original travel plans were to see the wonders of the world and that’s what I’m basing a lot of my trips on. It’s part of my “bucket list”. In India I was fortunate to see the Taj Mahal, located in Agra which was incredible. It didn’t look real when it’s stood in front of you.

Cambodia has Angkor Wat, one of the most famous temples in the world and today it still stands as the largest religious monument in the world. We set off at 4am to go and queue for the tickets and get a sunrise glimpse of the temple.

It was dark and eerie at the ticket office and you couldn’t see anything because it was so dark. There was something strange about knowing one of the most famous temples in the world was literally a stones throw away and we couldn’t see it yet.

After getting the tickets we took a short journey to the West Gate of Angkor Wat and walked across the floating bridge. While it was still dark, in the distance I could see the shadowy figure of the 5 Angkor Wat towers. It was pretty impressive!

The iconic photos of Angkor Wat are with the towers reflecting into the small pools/lakes outside. There were so many people queueing for the lakes and I managed to get a space at the front where I could get a few photos.

I managed to get the shadowy reflection of the temple but then also a sunrise photo with the towers included (now on Instagram) which is my favourite for definite. It’s one of the life experiences/moments that don’t seem real. Anyway that’s 3 wonders of the world ticked off in 12 months ✅

We spent the rest of the day exploring the temples and I got to see the Ta Prohm temple which was famously used in a Tomb Raider film scene.

Finally, we went to Angkor Thom. The old capital city for the Empire here.

All in all, a very good day.

Day two, first bus… to Siem Reap in Cambodia

On the morning of day two we were straight onto a private minibus and began the 7 hour bus journey to Siem Reap, in Cambodia.

Siem Reap used to be the capital of Cambodia before it moved to Phnom Penh. It is the location of the famous Angkor Wat temple, another wonder of the world that’s on my bucket list.

I’m not going to bore you to death with blogging about the 7 hour bus journey. It was long and we made the best of it!

Once we got to Siem Reap it was almost time to dinner so we went to a local place called New Hope which was a school. It’s been funded in part by Planetera, the charity that GAdventures work with, to provide an education to local children and teenagers in the hope they will go onto University or other professions.

It was good to see some of the money we spend on the tours being put to use to support the community. The school were able to build their own restaurant using some of the money and funding which allows them to train people as chefs and bar staff. It was really cool to see!

On top of this we got to go and spend time in one of the classrooms and help the children with 20 minutes of their English lesson. The kids were very happy and were laughing and joking amongst each-other. They didn’t have smartphones but were more than happy spending time with their friends and laughing and joking. I’ve not done any charity work to date but it felt nice to be able to help and give something back. Humbling experience.

After the lesson finished our tour group was invited to the restaurant where a dinner was cooked for us. This is where I tried the locally delicacy, roasted Cricket. I’m not going to lie – it didn’t look appealing at all but I guess you have to try it when you are abroad! It just tasted of soy sauce and was a little bit crunchy. Our CEO was telling us there are loads of other interest insects and creatures we can eat on the tour; including spiders (tarantulas), cockroaches and scorpions. Not sure which ones I’ll be keen on but let’s see!

Not a bad day two!

Hello Bangkok

A few flights later and we landed in Bangkok. Before arriving I had mixed feelings about going to Bangkok. Whilst I’ve heard it’s an amazing city and has a lot to offer I can’t help but have this impression it’s a very seedy place.

On first impressions, it was a very modern and clean city. Our hotel was very nice and the local people were very friendly. A number of people could speak English but it wasn’t as fluent as I had expected considering so many British people fly to Thailand. Interesting experience tho!

To pass time on day one we went to explore a few key sites. First of all we went to the Grand Palace in the centre of town. The place was huge and had a lot of architecture and colour to it. It was very grand with a lot of red and gold colours being used.

After the Grand Palace, we then went to Khao San road which is a very popular place for tourists and backpackers.

When we get there the street was actually the living definition of a tourist trap. It had market stools, bars and fast food places everywhere. Everyone wanted to be your friend but just with the angle of selling you stuff. My own opinion is that this place wasn’t really for me but then we did visit it during the day and at night it’s completely different with music playing and people drinking. Unfortunately we won’t get to see it at night until after the Indochina tour.

Time to head back to the hotel to meet our new tour group!

We had a very good mixed group. 6 guys and 10 girls from varying nationalities. A few drinks will help everyone break the ice.

It’s all over… time for Indochina. Final reflections…

So here we are. On another plane but this time travelling out of India to the next tour. We only have one day between the India tour and our Indochina tour so it felt a bit like we were out of the pan and into the fire.

It’s probably worth doing some honest reflections on the India trip…

I chose India as a curve ball option. It wasn’t the highest on my bucket list but it always intrigued me as a country because it is such a big country that provides so much for the world globally. A lot of IT expertise is found in India as well as some of the best cuisines (in my opinion!). I really wanted to see Indochina and I was looking for a potential tour that was reasonably priced and it would give me a taste of what India is about.

After spending a few days in Dubai in luxury it was a huge culture shock landing at Delhi airport. I was greeted with hundreds of people, so much noise, people arguing over who would carry my bags and who would give me a lift to the hotel. There was loads of pollution, cars are all over the place on the roads, animals road the streets, every car uses their horns regularly. There is no other word to describe it than absolute chaos.

When we woke up the morning after once we went to the hotel I was feeling a bit braver and thought I’d give it a go. So we went into Delhi and explored.

When we meet our CEO that evening he said something which is absolutely true… you have to open your mind and embrace India because if you don’t you’ll hate it.

I saw so many things I never thought I’d see with my own eyes but you just have to accept it and respect that’s how it works. There is definitely something special to India though…

The people are very friendly and accommodating. The food is incredible! The beer is amazing! The culture is a huge part of everything within the country and we were lucky to experience that. I thought on day one that driving was chaos there but after a while you actually realise there’s a skill to it. There’s an underlying understanding of how to work the roads in India and I only realised after a 5 days and then it all made so much sense.

I also realised it’s a very close knit community built on respect. Everything is interlinked and there was more than one occasion when you saw this network pulling together. If you don’t open your arms and embrace it you’ll never see it. Hard to describe and put into words.

Final thoughts… it was an incredible trip that I would highly recommend to anyone – but in an organised group tour only.

You have to let go of all your preconceived ideas. If you don’t open up and embrace it you’ll hate it. The country has so much to offer its hard to explain.

I thought the Indochina trip would be my highlight but now it’s really going to have to go some way to beat India. And I never thought I’d say that when I was flying out on the 9th November.

Indochina next…

Day at the beach

Half of the group got up early to go to see the old part of Goa. After a night out I definitely wasn’t feeling it so decided to have a lie in and then go to the beach.

I’m not a massive fan of the beach but a day just chilling out sounded good to me. Our hotel taxi driver recommended a different beach to our CEO which would have less tourists. We took the advice because it wasn’t much further and we just wanted to chill. Being surrounded by loads of tourists didn’t sound appealing.

Once we got to the beach we were greeted with golden sand, a few wooden huts serving food and drink and you had waiter service to your sunbeds. I’m not an expert on beach holidays but that seemed pretty decent to me!

So we spent all afternoon here. Afterwards we got the taxi back to the hotel so we could meet the rest of the group for the final dinner before we all go our separate ways. 4 of them had to be up at 4am to leave the hotel for the airport at 4.30am so a night out drinking was not going to happen. We went back to the same restaurant again from the first night because the food was amazing and reasonably priced.

So it’s all come to an end. It’s been a fantastic tour and I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

Goa, the Indian Magalluf

On the taxi journey to the hotel we were stuck in a lot of traffic. The local Goa team were playing a football match versus another team from India so fans were pouring into the stadium to watch it. It took us just short of two hours to get to the hotel where it normally would take 45 minutes. Ah well, at least we arrived ok.

After freshening up we were about to head out for dinner but our CEO was leaving so we needed to say farewell. We all pulled together to provide a tip to him for everything he had done to help our group over the 15 day tour. As mentioned in many of my blog posts, the tour would not have been the same without him and so it was appropriate to show our appreciation. It felt like the trip had only just begun and people were already leaving.

We went for dinner at a really cool seafood restaurant overlooking one of the main beaches. There were fireworks going off in the background and different genres of music playing from the different bars on the beach. It was an amazing environment. It felt like a Magalluf beach resort without people being idiots. The weather was good too although probably a bit too humid.

Once we had finished dinner we went to a local bar which was playing some really good songs. The drinks started flowing and it was our final night out as a group. Half the group ended up on the dance floor and before you knew it everyone was on there. I think I left around 2am but some of the group were in the bar until 4am easily. It was a really good night out and a way to the end the trip!

Before leaving the bar to go home we said farewell to our CEO. He did a great job in making the trip enjoyable for all of us and that’s not an easy thing. The amount of effort he put in behind the scenes was incredible! Highly recommend.

Bye Poppy! And hello Goa

The night out in Mumbai was decent because all of us were there. It also started to get a bit messy when the drinks really started to flow.

I ended up doing jaegerbombs which were served in a syringe, not a cup. It was a pretty odd experience! And afterwards the waiters would shake your head immediately after you have drunk the shot.

Unfortunately, this was Poppy’s last night with the group. She was flying back to London early the next morning but to her credit she stayed out as late as everyone else. In the end I think she only got two hours sleep and was probably still drunk on the plane!

It was an awesome night out but sad to say bye to the first member of the group. Again, we were very fortunate with the people in our group!

In the morning we had to take taxis to Mumbai Airport. The airport was actually quite far away and it took around an hour to get there. Once we had checked in we needed food before flying to Goa.

Ready for the last leg of the tour! It’s exciting but a shame it’s coming to an end so soon.